Ireland 2015: Day 15 – Dublin to Boston

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Dublin Airport

2,317 kilometers (1,439 miles) driven, 1,849 pictures taken, 15 days of traveling, and 1 happy-to-be-home traveler.

Today was the real “going home” day.  I tried valiantly to give up my seat again this morning, but they told me I couldn’t because I had already done it once.  So I resigned myself to getting on the plane and coming home.  The feeling of wanting to be home wasn’t as strong today, and I found myself missing Ireland before I even left.  I can guarantee that I will be back.

I can’t say there was any one part of Ireland I loved more than any other part.  The woman sitting next to me on the plane asked what it was about Ireland that makes me want to go back, and it’s not something that can be put into words.  I told her it was more of a feeling than something specific.  The people, the culture, the landscapes, all of that, but also it’s a sense of place in being there.  I’m not planning my return trip quite yet, but I know it will happen.

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Beara Peninsula

Throughout my trip, I had a keen sense of all of the things that were different from home.  Not necessarily bad, just different.  Driving on the left is a big one.  Having done it a few times now, it’s not a big deal, just different.  A lot of other more subtle things stand out as well, such as calling the restrooms the “toilets”, eating black pudding for breakfast (no, I didn’t try it!), and having signage in Irish and English.  Obviously we do things differently in the U.S. too, and I felt like I was more conscious of these differences on my return home this time.

It would be difficult to name all of my favorites from this trip, but here are some of them:

Best breakfast: Dingle Skellig Hotel

Best casual meal: Ham and Cheese Toastie at the Brehon Bar in Killarney

Best dinner: Trattoria Magnetti in Galway

Best dessert: Strawberry Pavlova at Fishy Fishy Cafe in Kinsale

Best scone: Ballinalacken Castle Hotel

Best soft serve ice cream: Muckross House in Killarney

Best hard serve ice cream: Kenmare Ice Cream

Best day: Day 6: Kinsale to Killarney

Best attraction(s): Kilmainham Gaol and Glendalough

Best music: Kyteler’s Inn (Kilkenny) and Kitty O Se’s (Kinsale)

Best castle: Ballinalacken Castle

Best hotel: Pembroke Hotel in Kilkenny

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“Your feet will take you where your heart is.” ~Irish Proverb

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Ireland 2015: Day 12 – Doolin to Galway

Here are the things I miss about home today: sleeping in my own bed, knowing where everything is when I need it, buying, cooking, and eating my own food, and driving my own car on the right-hand side of the road.  And here are the things I love about Ireland: the people, the history, the incredibly picturesque landscapes, and the music.  I’m heading home in two days, and part of me wants to leave now and part of me wants to stay here (or at least take Ireland home with me!).  There are some vacations where I want to soak everything in because I don’t know that I’ll ever be back (the Cotswolds is a recent example of that).  There are other places I’ve traveled to where I absolutely know I will be back (I had that feeling on my first visit to Turks and Caicos and returned a year later).  Ireland definitely falls into the latter category: I will definitely be back.

New Quay, County Clare
New Quay, County Clare

Today I made the drive from Doolin to Galway.  I spent some time working on my TripAdvisor reviews this morning and poking around the shops in Doolin before I got on the road.  It was foggy and drizzly (again), so I didn’t stop much.  I wanted to see Poulnabrone dolmen in the Burren and enjoy the coastal route.  The Poulnabrone dolmen dates to the Neolithic period and more than 20 adults and children have been determined to be buried there.  After that I stayed on the main road until a roadsign Lillanlla’s homemade ice cream shop attracted my attention.  It was noontime and what’s better for lunch than ice cream?  I followed the narrow road 5 km and enjoyed yet another creamy and delicious Irish ice cream cone.

Once I made it to Galway, it was obvious I wasn’t in the countryside anymore.  Galway is the fourth largest city in Ireland.  After checking into my hotel (thankfully on the outskirts of town), I took the local bus into the city center.  Have I mentioned I hate cities?  I wandered around the jam-packed pedestrian area, past leprechaun -filled souvenir shops for about an hour.  Then I sought out Taaffes Bar, where I knew they had early trad music sessions.  I enjoyed a half pint of Bulmer’s while listening to a group of musicians playing fiddles, accordions, guitars, and more.  By then I was ready for dinner but I was surrounded by touristy-looking pubs.  I wandered for a while before I stumbled upon Trattoria Magnetti.  I’m glad I did!  I had a delicious beef and pork ravioli with a marsala and mascarpone sauce.  Yum!  I made it back to my hotel in time to “watch the sun go down by Galway Bay”.

Galway Bay
Galway Bay

England 2015 – A Few Anecdotes

I love to travel.  I love seeing new places, meeting new people, doing new things, eating new foods… it’s one of my favorite things to do.  I also love coming home.  By the last day of vacation, I am usually ready to be home.  This trip was no exception.  As much as I love to travel, looking out the window of the plane and seeing Cape Ann on our approach into Boston Friday night, I was reminded again that this part of the world is home.  There is a flowering magnolia tree in front of my apartment building, and I returned home to see it in full bloom.

One of the things I love most about traveling is the people you meet along the way.  Maybe it’s because I frequently travel by myself, but I always enjoy meeting fellow travelers and locals and striking up conversations.  A few conversations from this trip stand out in my mind.  The first was last Friday night while I was waiting for my flight at Logan airport.  I had a talk with a woman who was heading home to Scotland after a few days each in New York City and Boston.  She was on the flight after mine, and she told me all about her travels in both cities.  She said she loved New York, but she couldn’t wait to return to Boston.  She said the best word she could think of to describe our city is “classy”.

The White Swan Pub, London
The White Swan Pub, London

The second conversation took place on Saturday night at the White Swan pub in London.  The older couple who sat down next to me struck up conversation and we chatted throughout the meal.  They were from D.C. and staying at the same hotel as me down the road.  I left to order dessert, and when I returned they had begun talking to the gentleman on the other side of them.  Soon we were all talking about our travels and experiences.  He was from Italy, but had been living in London and working as a barber for about 15 years.  He said when he was first offered the job, he was told he had a year to learn English.  He did and you would barely know English wasn’t his first language.  The couple was heading to Cardiff for a business meeting and decided to spend a couple of days in London before heading on.

The last conversation that stands out in my mind was with a couple from Newbury, England who I met on my walk back to Chipping Campden from Broad Campden on Thursday.  When we first met on the path, the gentleman said, “That doesn’t sound much like a Chipping Campden accent!”  Obviously it’s not, and we starting talking about the U.S. and traveling.  They have a house in Orlando and knew all about the winter we had in Boston.  There was nothing that stands out about this couple specifically, it was just a warm conversation and they seemed like the type of people who represent the friendliness of the British.

The people you meet along the way...
The people you meet along the way…

One other anecdote from my trip… Every morning at breakfast, I saw these two older gentlemen from northwest London.  The first morning I saw them, I smiled and said hello and they nodded back.  The second morning, they were telling the waitress that they were going to Sudeley Castle that day.  I piped up that I was going there too, and they smiled and nodded without saying much.  Then I saw them at the castle, and one of them said, “Oh, I recognize you.”  It wasn’t until the third morning that we managed to strike up conversation.  As I was leaving the restaurant, one of the gentleman asked how I had enjoyed the castle.  We chatted about the beauty and history of the castle, and then began talking about our trips.  They asked about my “holiday” and told me about theirs.  They are both retired and enjoy traveling.  By the final morning (they checked out the day before me), they called me over as I was leaving for the day and wanted to know all about my plans for the day and where I was from.  It felt like some small victory, that I had won them over.  From the first day nodding and smiling at each other to the last couple of days sharing conversation.  I saw them briefly in the parking lot as they were loading up their car and we wished each other safe travels.

None of these conversations were particularly noteworthy on their own, but they represent many of the small things I remember from my trips.  I don’t typically bring home a lot of souvenirs from my vacations, but these small moments are the ones that I remember long after the traveling is over.

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“Once you have traveled, the voyage never ends, but is played out over and over again in the quietest chambers. The mind can never break off from the journey.”   -Pat Conroy